Pippi Longstocking, the creation of Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, first appeared in print in 1945, and the reading public immediately took the pigtailed, fearless, nine-year-old to their hearts. But the Longstocking books that followed - 75 in total - might never have happened if Lindgren had not hurt her ankle in 1944. While recuperating, she decided to write down the stories with which she had entertained her daughter during the war, many of which were based on her own childhood in rural Sweden in the 1920s.
Lindgren once wrote, 'A childhood without books - that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.' Accordingly Lindgren invented a world for Pippi which is at once strange and immediately appealing to child readers; Pippi lives in Villa Villekulla in Gotland, Sweden, an only-child in a parentless household. But she is not alone, for she shares her home with two housemates, a lively dappled horse and a monkey. Pippi's adventures often take place in the company of her closest friends Annika and Tommy.
Lindgren was known as a campaigner for children's and animal rights, and this year will see her legacy celebrated with at least two new stage shows and an exhibition at the Discover Children's Story Centre in Stratford, London in the summer.
The Longstocking books were an immediate hit and international fame for their author followed; Lindgren has sold more than 70 million books in 70 languages and has even had the uncommon distinction of having an asteroid named after her - '3204 Lindgren'.
Image copyright, www.astridlindgren.com